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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Jonah 1


Jonah, sent by God to Nineveh, fleeth to Tarshish, Jonah 1:1-3; he is overtaken by a tempest, and discovered, Jonah 1:4-10, thrown into the sea, Jonah 1:11-16, and swallowed by a fish, Jonah 1:17.

Verse 1

Now, Heb. And.

The word of the Lord, which is a usual description of prophecy; what God had to speak against Nineveh, be here does reveal to Jonah, with command that he publish it to those concerned in it.

Came unto, to, or, was with,

Jonah; called Jonas, Luke 11:30, which signifieth a dove; he was of Gath-hepher, a town of Zebulun, 2 Kings 14:25, but no more is added, by which I conjecture it was some obscure place, to which Jonah gave more light than it could to him.

Amittai; of what rank he was appears not.

Verse 2

Arise; forthwith prepare thyself, and get all in readiness, and with hearty resolution set upon the work.

Go; so soon as thou art ready, set forward on thy journey, make not any delay.

Nineveh; the chief city or metropolis of the Assyrian kingdom, built by Asshur, Genesis 10:11, if that verse be not better translated thus, He (i.e. Nimrod) went out into Assyria, and builded Nineveh; so Nimrod was the founder and first builder.

That great city: it may be easily conjectured a great city which was situate on such a river as Tigris is, had continued so many hundred years, from A.M. 1119, in which it was built, unto 3124, about which time Jonah was sent to preach against it; during which long growth it may be conceived as great as it is ordinarily described, one hundred and fifty furlongs in length, that is, eighteen miles and three quarters of our English measure, and eleven miles and one quarter of the same measure in breadth.

Cry against it; earnestly and publicly preach against the sins, and denounce the sudden ruin of that city unless they repent; so cry that all may hear, or at least all may come to the knowledge of what is threatened.

For their wickedness is come up before me: their many and great sins, as it is said of Cain’s sin when he had slain Abel, Genesis 4:10, and Sodom’s sins, Genesis 18:20,Genesis 18:21, and the sins of oppressors, James 5:4, cry aloud, the cry enters heaven, and justice must no longer defer; yet I will give them warning; Jonah, go thou, and tell them plainly, their great sins shall be greatly punished.

Verse 3

But, Heb. And.

Jonah rose up: he was commanded to arise, Jonah 1:2, so here Jonah did, but it was to run from his business, not to do it; it was a rising against God.

To flee: whatever was the cause which moved Jonah to do this, it is strange that he should fall into a fixed opinion that he might, and a fixed resolution that he would, thus flee from his God and from his duty.

Unto Tarshish; to sea, as some, but this seemeth too rambling a humour: to Cilicia, say others, and particularly to Tarsus, no mean city of Cilicia, Acts 21:39; others say it was Tunis or Carthage in Africa, to which Jonah minded to flee; either of these carry such probability with them, that we will not determine for our reader.

From the presence of the Lord: I cannot suppose that Jonah dreamed of fleeing from the omnipresence of God, he knew how David described this, Psalms 139:7-12, and natural reason told him he could never flee from this; but this presence of God is to be interpreted of the place where God usually had showed himself present by revealing his word and will to his prophets, who are servants to the Lord, and as such did stand before the Lord ready to receive his commands: now this command to Jonah being displeasing to him, and yet whilst he was in his own country, the valley of vision, he is still put upon the work, now he resolves to shift off the work by shifting place; perhaps he might think God would not put him upon it when he was gotten into a strange and remote country, where were no prophets, nor prophetic impulses. Joppa; a well-known haven on the-Mediterranean, now called Jaffa, anciently Japho, Joshua 19:46.

Going; bound for, and ready to set sail for, the place he designed.

Tarshish; Carthage or Tunis, or Tarsus in Cilicia.

Paid the fare; forthwith agreed. with the master of the ship, and, though unusual, paid presently, staid not till he came to the port designed.

Went down into it; immediately went a ship-board, and in a melancholy, discomposed humour gets into a cabin, or under deck, to go with them; waiting the time when they should go, that he might be sure to go with them.

From the presence of the Lord: see above.

Verse 4

The Lord, the almighty and eternal God, from whose work Jonah fleeth, sent out a great wind. God keepeth the winds as in storehouses, or treasuries, and now brings one forth to fetch back a fugitive, and obstinate refuser of his command: the greatness of it, with the suddenness of its rising, and manner of its working, undeniably showed that it was supernatural, and from God, displeased with all, or with some one or other of them.

Into the sea; the winds did not blow aloft over the sea and ship, but, as if they had intermixed with the very waters of the sea, and like an unheard-of hurricane, shook the very keel of the ship.

There was a mighty tempest in the sea; that part of the sea where Jonah’s ship was: this messenger soon finds out Jonah, and speaks in most dreadful manner to all in the ship, who all saw and owned it to be from Heaven, the finger of God.

The ship was like to be broken; the master and mariners thought they, ship, and goods, and all should be lost; the Hebrew expresseth it as if the ship had sense of God’s anger, as if the ship could think, and did think of its own weakness, and God’s mighty hand.

Verse 5

Then, when this preternatural tempest fell-with all its violence into the sea, the mariners; passengers are not here named, who, unaccustomed to sea, might be too apprehensive of danger; but the men that were acquainted with the sea, and had seen many a tempest, and weathered many a storm,

were afraid, heartily afraid, full of apprehensions that they should be wrecked.

Cried, with loud voice and earnest petitions, as the manner of such men is, when danger awakens them to the duty they neglect whilst safe. Every man; not a man of them but feared, nor a man of them but cried out, by which it is evident it was a most dreadful storm.

Unto his god: by this it appears that the ship’s crew was a mixture of men who worshipped several gods, and every one doth now cry to the god whom he worshipped: whatever god it might be, it was not he that did raise nor could allay the tempest. Cast forth the wares that were in the ship: when prayer to their false gods doth no good, but their danger continued and threatened them with foundering in the sea, to prevent this they lighten the ship, as is usual in such cases, and cast the wares out; not as sacrifice to the god of the flea, or as repenting of piracy, by which the goods were gotten, though some conjecture so, but the text tells us it was

to lighten the ship that it may bear up its head and work with the sea better than when heavy laden.

But Jonah, the greatest weight, and only danger to ship and seamen,

was gone down into the sides of the ship; was under the hold in some cabin or other in the side of the ship, whither he went before the storm arose;

and was fast asleep; in a very deep sleep, as the word imports.

Verse 6

So the ship-master, who had the conduct of the vessel, and from whose mouth such a reproof was seasonable, came to him; missing him, when all the rest were toiled with labour, and had been crying mightily to their false gods, but Jonah appeared not.

What meanest thou, O sleeper? a very decent yet sharp reproof to him: What metal art thou made of? or, What god dost thou fear? or, Art thou deaf to all the menaces of Heaven?

Arise, awake, get up, call upon thy God; pray to that God thou worshippest, as we have already each done, for possibly thy God may be mightier than our gods, and may lay the tempest that lieth so heavily upon us. They had lost their labour seeking to other gods, yet think it advisable that Jonah should try his God too; if so be, &c.: see Joel 2:14; and so Amos 5:15.

Will think upon us, with pity, care, and favour, and do for us in this our strange distress, that we perish not; that ship, goods, and men too, may not be lost.

Verse 7

And they said every one to his fellow; after they had prayed, which was necessary in such cases, as being a religious means, and cast out the goods which loaded the ship, which was a proper natural means of safety, but none appeared, still the tempest, and their danger with it, continued, a shrewd symptom that there was one or other amongst them whose sins had provoked God to do this, and that it were fit to be known who this was; and whoever first moved for making the search, all agree in the expedient. It is like that it was upon the thoughts of many of them, and so expressed here.

Let us cast lots; it is extraordinary danger we are in, all ordinary means fail, let us try that which hath somewhat extraordinary in it; though many times used, let the lot decide among us who is the cause of all this. Lots are an appeal to Heaven in doubtful cases, and therefore not to be used on trifling or unnecessary cases, but where the matter is great, difficult, or undeterminable in any other way, as Scripture instances of lots do inform us, Leviticus 16:8,Leviticus 16:9; Numbers 26:55; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:6; Joshua 21:4,Joshua 21:5, &c.; 1 Samuel 10:20,1 Samuel 10:21, Saul chosen by lot; Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 11:1; Acts 1:26.

This evil; very great, unusual, and preternatural tempest; not one among them but had deserved more, yet they surmise some notorious offender amongst them, or this had not been.

So they cast lots, they act according to what was proposed,

and the lot fell upon Jonah; God determines and singles out Jonah.

Verse 8

Then said they unto him; when the lot pointed out Jonah, these mariners all are satisfied that he was the man, that heaven had determined that grand inquiry, and accordingly they treat with him.

Tell us, we pray thee; they try what fair means will do with him, and desire to have the account from his own mouth; so Joshua dealt with Achan, Joshua 7:0; satisfied in the person, next they do, with commendable justice and calmness, inquire into the thing.

For whose cause this evil is upon us: what hast thou done, for which God is so angry with thee, and with us for thy sake? sure thou canst not but know what it is, and now frankly tell us what is thine occupation, what course of life hast thou lived, or what employment dost thou now profess to follow, that we may guess by that whether thou art one of flagitious or of honest life.

Whence comest thou? ere he give answer to this, probably another asketh whence he cometh, what company he had kept; by this they conjecture at the man.

What is thy country? another starts a third inquiry, what country or nation he is of; to those ports persons of different nations flocked; possibly they hoped some or other in the ship might be his countrymen, and so fittest to examine him. Of what people art thou? this seems to be the same question repeated, or else an inquiry where he dwelt. These are the heads of the questions asked him.

Verse 9

And he said unto them; Jonah freely and readily gives account of himself.

I am a Hebrew; one that am descended from Heber, whose offspring by Abraham are well known, and probably to these mariners: he saith not, a Jew, because he was not in strictness of speech, for he was of the tribe of Zebulun; nor an Israelite, distinguished from the Jew, lest he should seem to own himself of that idolatrous faction.

I fear; I worship and serve the true God only; or possibly it may imply that his employment was in the immediate. service of God, as a religious person that had abdicated the world, and dedicated himself to God.

The Lord; the eternal and almighty God; yours are upstart gods, and have no power or might, nor can they do any thing.

The God of heaven; who first made, now ruleth, and ever will rule the heavens, which none of your gods can pretend to, those heavens from whence you see this storm falleth.

Which hath made the sea; that sea which now threatens you for my sake, and threatens me for my sin; my God hath raised the sea in his quarrel to contend thus furiously, and he can, and none but he can, command it to be still. And the dry land; a description of the earth: you would get thither, but all your gods cannot bring you thither, or give you to set one foot upon it, if my God say no. This is the sum of what Jonah declares, by which he intimateth his innocency from any flagitious crime, as they might imagine him guilty, and yet confesseth the greatness of his sin, which he had before told them, though they understood it not, or thought light of it, he fled from the presence of the Lord.

Verse 10

Then; when Jonah had declared his God, whose power and wrath these mariners saw and heard in the tempest, and what sin of his was now punished, and how they had taken him into their ship, knowing that he did runaway from this mighty God.

The men were exceedingly afraid; their fear was doubled, every thing now represents horror to them, their own danger, Nineveh’s approaching dismal ruin, which they believe by what they see, satisfied that he who so tremendously punished the refusal to deliver the message, was able and certainly would execute the sentence which he commanded should be delivered.

Why hast thou done this? now they ask a reason for that of which no reason can be given: it was most unreasonable that Jonah had done, and we find no answer to this interrogatory, though the foregoing questions were answered. Others think it is a reproof of him for so doing; I rather think it mixed of both. It was a real reproof to himself while he more particularly explains the great sinfulness Of this prank of his; and it is an inquiry made for satisfaction to them, who no doubt thought of Jonah’s God as they did of their own, that it was no hard matter to be done, nor any great sin if done, to run from their presence. These likely were their thoughts of the thing when he first told them; but the dreadful storm that Jonah’s God sent after this fugitive servant of his makes them more curious to know what great sin it was, and so Jonah explaining the whole, confesseth his sin, humbleth himself, and takes the reproof to himself, and informeth them aright. The men; the master of the ship, and the mariners.

Knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord: in these words it is probable he told them; now though they knew this was the thing, yet they apprehended not what was in it, but did judge of this by their own gods, and their presence.

He had told them, when they inquired the cause of his travels, as it is very like they would do, ere they took his fare.

Verse 11

Then said they; when they heard all that Jonah had declared to them, and well weighed it all, and saw it looked all of one piece, most credible.

Unto him; a prophet fittest in that respect to tell them what should be done, and a party so highly concerned in it.

What shall we do unto thee? if thy God will by thee declare his will and we do it, we shall not provoke him; and if thou submit to his will, and direct us, we shall not injure thee.

That the sea may be calm; cease its rage, and return to its former calmness for us to make our voyage.

For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous; though Jonah had recounted all, and given glory to God, taken shame to himself, and satisfied the seamen, yet the sea grew higher and higher, more tempestuous in itself, and more dangerous to them, and they were sensible that somewhat must be done with Jonah to quiet all. Their fear was lest they should mistake herein, and therefore they ask his counsel.

Verse 12

He said unto them; he readily gives them advice for their safety.

Take me up: this he spake as a prophet directed of God, and not, as some Jewish rabbi thinks, choosing to die rather than to go to Nineveh.

Cast me forth into the sea; throw me overboard into the sea; no other way must you deal with me than this, and this way I not only direct as expedient, but from God I give you it as a command, and you must do it; thus my God will punish my disobedience and contempt.

So shall the sea be calm unto you; as a prophet I assure you the tempest shall cease, and you be safe, and by that you may know I being in the ship endangered you all.

I know; I am assured of this, and though I have been your danger, and this was my fault, yet it shall not be my fault if you be drowned.

For my sake; for my sin, which God will punish, but not by my own act, I must not leap overboard; it is a crime God will punish by that justice which is in this place.

This great tempest is upon you; and will be, till you have executed God’s sentence on me, which I willingly submit to.

Verse 13

Nevertheless, Heb. And; but rightly to the proper sense of the phrase rendered here

nevertheless: Notwithstanding the lot fell on Jonah, he confessed his fault, directs them to cast him overboard, and in all this avoweth himself to be a prophet of God, and assures them of a calm sea if they do this; yet, very willing to save him,

the men rowed hard; they contrived all ways, and are willing to be at any labour to save him; they ply their oars, and strain their strength, with deep strokes tb force the ship to shore.

But they could not; all was lost labour; God had given other order to his servants, the wind and sea; both obey him, and both keep Jonah a prisoner, self-condemned, and desirous of what the mariners were very unwilling to.

For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them: see Jonah 1:11; the sea tossed itself more violently, and by unsteady motions, like some hurricane, every moment endangered them.

Verse 14

Wherefore, since all their labour and skill to carry the ship to shore was successless, and they saw no remedy, but they must either follow Jonah’s advice against himself, or drown with him,

they cried, with importunity of mind, and with loud voices too in prayer,

unto the Lord; not now, as in the beginning of the tempest, every man to his god; but, better instructed now, they all cry to Jonah’s God, to Jehovah the true God.

We; they all join in prayer.

Beseech; sue to Mercy for mercy; they plead not innocency or merit, but pray for mercy, and that free. Thee; all sue to God, not to saints or intermediate demons. We

beseech thee; it is repeated to note their vehemency in prayer.

Let us not perish for this man’s life; though he is pointed out by lot, hath advised us hereunto, yet if possible let the tempest cease, and we all be safe; let not him perish, nor we for him: so their first prayer is for safety to Jonah and all in the ship.

Lay not upon us innocent blood: this is the next suit, that if God, by the continued tempest, do peremptorily and irreversibly require Jonah’s life, a person innocent among them, and who had, since he came to them, so demeaned himself, that, should they throw him overboard before they had tried all kind of means for preserving him, they might not be justly accounted barbarous murderers, and God would certainly charge innocent blood upon them; this they deprecate with all earnestness and importunity.

Hast done; sending the tempest, arresting the prophet by it, detecting him by lot, sentencing him by his own mouth, and confirming the condemning sentence by the continuance of the storm, and so leaving us to perish with this offender against thee, or to be thy executioners; this is thine own doing, and it is just because thou doest it.

As it pleased thee; though it be secret to us, and strange in our opinion, yet it is very just and necessary we know, or it would not please thee it should be so.

Verse 15

So, Heb. And,

they took up Jonah; as he advised; with reset to themselves, though with full-consent of Jonah, at last they yield. Cast him forth into the sea: see Jonah 1:12.

And the sea ceased from her raging; as Jonah had assured them, so they find the sea all on a sudden calm and friendly, which we must understand includes the wind sent into the sea, though it be not mentioned here.

Verse 16

Then, when they saw God approved the thing, and confirmed Jonah’s word, as of a true prophet, and had spared them, the men, the seamen, and all others, if any others were in the ship,

feared the Lord; with a deep reverence of his power, wisdom, and justice against Jonah, and of his mercy towards them. What was the final effect of this, and whether they were by it thoroughly turned to God, I inquire not now; it may best become our charity, that as Jonah’s casting overboard was type of Christ’s death, so the effect it had upon the mariners might be a type of the conversion of the heathen from idols to God.

Exceedingly; their fear before was exceeding great, but that was a fear of the danger, and for themselves a natural fear; but now they do fear the Lord and his majesty and mercy, it is a religious fear.

Offered a sacrifice; what they had in the ship to offer to God, or how they could offer there, appears not to us, but the Scripture affirms they did sacrifice, not to idols, but to the true God: some suppose the words are to be interpreted that they would sacrifice at Jerusalem, where they now know that the God of Jonah was worshipped.

Made vows: vows are a part of natural religion, and here these persons bind themselves by vows to recognize God’s goodness in their deliverance. It is not improbable that here is a trajection, as many times in Scripture, that placed last which in construction is to be first. They vowed vows and sacrificed, i.e. vowed they would do it, would be proselytes, and ever worship him Jonah preached to them, Creator of heaven and earth.

Verse 17

Now, Heb. And.

Prepared; created at first, say some; but what need that, when a mighty overgrown fish of a double age may do this; by God’s will and appointment it attended the ship, and followed it in the storm, expecting a prey, and ready to receive the prisoner.

A great fish; a whale, as we read, Matthew 12:40; others say it was a shark, a fish common in those seas.

To swallow up; not to chew upon him, but to take him down whole.

Jonah was in the belly of the fish, in safe custody, three days and three nights, that he might rightly typify Christ’s burial in the grave.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.